Students attending Mt. McKinley School, located at Juvenile Hall, are learning the therapeutic qualities of self-expression through creative writing, poetry, performance of written word, and a fine arts curriculum. In 2007, Alison McKee (former Juvenile Hall librarian) applied for, and received, a federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The grant funds a three-year Artists In Residence Program. After an initial year of preparation, the 2009/10 school years marked the start of the two-year-classroom program. During the course of the program, every visiting artist will conduct four one and a half-hour workshops in each of the nine classrooms at Mt. McKinley.
The following artists have committed to the first year of the program (2009/10):
Jennifer Scaife, creative writing instructor, will introduce students to ways of expressing memories and feelings through poems and stories. "I will teach different strategies to writing, ones that are not encountered in normal high school classes. The goal is to teach students that writing can be a form of therapy." She is program director of the Prison University Project, a college program dedicated to providing higher education to inmates at San Quentin Prison.
Youth Speaks is a nonprofit group in San Francisco dedicated to teaching and creating spoken word performance. Jose Vadi, a Youth Speaks mentor, will take the lead in this residency, aided by Kirya Traber, residency program manager. Visit their Web site for more information.
Javier Reyes, is one of the founders of Colored Ink, a hip hop theater group composed of young adults from urban neighborhoods in the Bay Area. Javier's goal is to demonstrate to the kids in Juvenile Hall the therapeutic power of live performance.
Tim Hancock is from ArtReach, a division of the City of Walnut Creek's Civic Arts Education program. Gearing his workshops toward beginner artists, Tim will teach the kids how to express their individuality through visual art.
Cindy Wolley, a teacher at Mt. McKinley, commented, "I have seen a breakthrough with one particular student in the serious offenders' unit. This student had been angry and not willing to participate. These workshops have helped this student express himself."
At the end of the first year, there will be a reception at Juvenile Hall, which will include a display of the students' artwork (date will be announced when scheduled).